Opinion: Knock on doors in diverse communities with confidence

Campaigning on the doorstep - Lynne FeatherstoneLater this month Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats will be holding the first of several action days in Brent Central to help the excellent Ibrahim Taguri get elected.

We will also be doing everything we can to encourage party members to get out and secure a victory for Ibrahim in 2015.

On paper this may look like an uphill task – defending a wafer-thin majority against Labour in a highly multicultural seat. But it really isn’t, and here’s why…

Let’s tear up any assumptions that Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are wedded to Labour. Historically the tendency to vote Labour has been out of necessity to ward off the Tory ‘nasty party’ and, to a lesser extent, the support of British trades unions towards independence movements in the former colonies.

Yet many from BAME communities are instinctively Liberal in outlook and on some issues socially Conservative. Any party that shows it understands the particular challenges BAME communities face, are serious about doing something about it, and also have a diverse selection of candidates, will get a fair hearing.

Some of our policies in Government have disproportionately benefited BAME communities, such as the raising of the tax threshold. And EMLD’s motion on education and employment, adopted at the Glasgow conference, give us an excellent starting point about what we can offer in the future.

There are smaller gains that are worth a mention too. It was Nick Clegg who stood up to Michael Gove to reinstate Mary Seacole, the Crimean war nurse, back to the national curriculum. And our communities minister Stephen Williams who is taking on Ofcom over the axing of the popular radio station Choice FM.

We need to go a lot further developing policies to combat race inequality, and we must not take our foot off the gas on BAME political representation either.

But we can knock on doors in diverse communities with confidence. We have a lot of positive things to say and a lot of connections to make between what we believe and what they believe.

Canvassing is but one element of genuine engagement. We must also go out to the community centres, youth clubs, churches, mosques, temples and gurdwaras on a regular basis and have honest conversations.

Sarah Teather has been an excellent MP so the residents of Brent Central know Liberal Democrats work hard for them.

Labour, meanwhile, lazily assumes they will win back the seat simply by turning up. Taking the BAME vote for granted is precisely why BAME support for Labour has been going down at every general election.

Labour have also selected a candidate in Brent Central who is still remembered for her expenses claims and very little else.

By contrast, Lib Dems have a top candidate in Ibrahim Taguri. And I am confident the more he is introduced to voters the more they will warm to him.

* Issan Ghazni is Chair of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and former National Diversity Adviser for the Liberal Democrats. Issan blogs here

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4 Comments

  • Jonathan Brown 13th Mar '14 - 6:00pm

    Excellent points Issan. You’re right – we DO have a positive message, but we’ll only benefit if we DO get out there and tell people about it. And listen to what they want to say.

    I’m sure the level of our party’s engagement with voters varies all over the country (as it will for the other parties too), but we must make sure that where we are campaigning we are not just writing off BME voters and their concerns just because historically we haven’t done very well. As with anyone else, and anywhere else, the more we engage with people, the better we’ll do.

    I look forward to joining you and Ibrahim in Brent!

  • Lester Holloway 13th Mar '14 - 6:57pm

    The Action Day is on Saturday 22nd March.

    It would be great if you could join us for what promises to be a very fun day. Our target is to have the biggest Action Day for any London seat during this Parliament and hope to have over 100 volunteers join us.

    The Action Day will run from 10am until 4pm and will be based from Sarah Teather’s constituency office at 70 Walm Lane, Willesden Green, NW2 4RA. Please make every effort to come along – even if it’s just for part of the day!

    There are a number of ways to RSVP:

    Email [email protected]

    Tel: Callum on 020 8459 0455

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ibrahimforbrentcentral

    Web: http://www.ibrahimtaguri.com/2014localelectionslaunch

    We really hope you can make it!

  • Graham Neale 13th Mar '14 - 11:31pm

    Yes Issan,
    let’s go onto the estates, and the streets with our heads held up high,
    proud that we represent all our communities – each and everyone!

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